We're in the Plaza de Toros in Córdoba or
The play's focus is usually billed as office politics, but that's to underplay the scope of
Thomas' initial attempts to give as good as he gets with picador Tony and bandarillero Isobel founder when, asked what his father does in life, he pauses for an age before a sullen: 'He's a Maths teacher', only to have this unexceptionable fact gleefully torn to shreds by his adversaries. When manager Carter (Alex Ansdell, bringing convincing sliminess to the part) finally appears, casually laden with folding bike and faux bonhomie, he soon ditches human relations procedures, snapping out to the blustering Thomas: 'If you stay, I'll make your life a nightmare!'
Hawkins has had the challenge of manoeuvring his cast within the tiny playing space, while we aficionados of the dance of death sit within touching distance of this toro and these toreros. I was never conscious of cramped staging. The minimalist but startling set is supplemented by the costuming of Tony and Isobel, smartly dressed for their day of destiny, while the hapless Thomas is a little down at heel, one unpolished shoe trailing a shoelace.
The lights bore down on the spectacle, an unpitying Andalucian sun, as Tony, inviting his colleagues to get up close and personal with his bare chest and stomach, goes head-on at his prey. Meanwhile, Isobel plants her darts until her final long monologue, where she picks up her matador's sword for the denouement. Both in this super-demanding speech and throughout, I hardly know what aspect of Georgia Laird's performance to praise most: her varied speech delivery, her total grasp of her character's veiled malice, or the difficult balance she found between stasis and movement - perfectly judged. Just terrific!
Here was the third MCS production I've seen in the past twelve months. This little coruscating gem of a Bull once again reminds the other players in the